By Steve Large

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It’s a first-of-its-kind approach to creating more housing in Sacramento. Turning addresses caught with illegal marijuana grows into affordable homes.

As Sacramento weeds out the illegal marijuana grow houses from its neighborhoods, city officials debated what to do with those homes, sparking a new idea.

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Illegal grow property owners, now fined $500 a plant, are facing such steep fines that some are negotiating to just give their homes to the city as their payment.

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“We probably have $50 to $60 million worth of fines out there right now,” Sacramento Councilmember Jay Schenirer said. “We’ll take your home, in lieu of some amount of fines, but the home has to be in working order.”

Schenirer says when the city began increased enforcement of illegal grows, it didn’t anticipate it could end up in the real estate business.

“At that point we didn’t really know the scope and the magnitude of what we would be doing,” Schenirer said.

Now Schenirer says the city is faced with taking control of what he describes as “tens of homes” from owners as their payment for fines.

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He is advocating turning those homes into Sacramento affordable housing, or housing for homeless youth. Bluntly, a creative approach to the housing crisis.

“I think what it shows is really we want to be innovative about this,” Schenirer said. “How can use some challenges that we have to solve other problems we have in the city and so this was a match made in heaven.”

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The City of Sacramento is currently short thousands of units in affordable housing, and there is 400 homeless youth on the streets. Now there is a political push at city hall to create more housing options.

“We are a compassionate city we need to take care of our own,” Schenirer said.

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With councilmembers already backing it, the likelihood of the new city policy here is high.